How can we create change to develop the next generation of girl leaders?
Did you know that every additional year of primary school increases girls’ eventual wages by 10-20 percent? It also encourages them to marry later and have fewer children and leaves them less vulnerable to violence. The flow on effect of ensuring girls have access to education is significant and is a major contributing factor to being able to unlock generational poverty.
International Day of the Girl Child (IDG), now in its 10th year, is designed to promote statistics just like this, ensuring we continue to help increase attention on issues that matter to girls amongst governments, policymakers and the general public, and provide more opportunities for girls to have their voices heard on the global stage. To celebrate IDG and promote positive action, we sat down with our Global Sustainability Leader, Michelle Degenhardt, to better understand how we can contribute to this narrative and foster change in developing the next generation of girl leaders.
According to Michelle, it’s days like IDG that highlight the significant contribution girls can make in the world when given the same rights and opportunities as boys.
As a mother of a young girl yourself, what experiences and opportunities do you see her embrace that aren’t offered to others?
“My daughter has been raised in an environment where she has had access to first world education systems and healthcare. She has also been raised in a household that challenges gender norms with two working parents that contribute equally to both paid and unpaid work.
Being raised in this environment, with these resources means she honestly believes that she can do and achieve whatever she puts her mind to. By raising my daughter in this environment, she has been given the tools to make good life decisions as well as choose a path that will bring her joy and make a positive contribution to the world. So far, it’s working, she’s a great girl who is smart, kind and knows her worth.”
The world is full of inspirational girls, can you name one you particularly admire and why?
“Greta Thunberg immediately comes to mind. She has become the face of a generation when it comes to climate change. Her activism began at home with her persuading her parents to adopt a more climate friendly lifestyle and moved to her speaking to world leaders. She is courageous, passionate, and committed to the cause – a true inspiration to anyone of any age or gender.”
What are some small ways corporate businesses and individuals can get involved to make a difference or contribute to the narrative around IDG?
“Girls around the world continue to face challenges to their education, their physical and mental wellness, and the protections needed to live a life without violence. These are big global challenges which will not be fixed overnight however the corporate community can use their position of influence to highlight the importance of girls and their power and potential. It would be great to see the corporate community engage key female leaders across their industry to be the face of change we want girls to see as possible, role models speak a thousand words.”
What’s something we may not realise or fully understand about being a girl in a developing country?
“Girl’s education can prevent childhood pregnancies. For each year that a girl in a developing nation is in school, her first child is delayed by 10 months. Pregnancy in childhood can prevent a girl from receiving an education and decreases the chances of her child suffering from malnutrition and disease.
All women worldwide receiving a secondary education would prevent 3 million child deaths. A girls’ education also reduces the gender gap found in the workplace of many developing countries. In fact, UNESCO found that Pakistani women with a primary education made 51 percent of what their male counterparts made. This number increased to 70 percent when a woman completed secondary education.”
At Flight Centre, our purpose is to “open up the world for those who want to see” and with that purpose comes responsibility. Our sustainability vision is to contribute to preserving and enriching a world worth seeing with a focus on our people, our customers, our partners, and our planet. On behalf of all the women of FCTG making positive change and contributing in any way they can to this vision, and to the wider narrative of IDG, we thank you.